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The Fragrance of Victory

Kushboo was abandoned by her father when in her mother’s womb,and her life has not been a walk in the park. Kushboo’s mother worked as a domestic maid but always fell short of providing a better life for her daughter with a meager monthly. Drowning in the sea of poverty Kushboo was sent to work to help the family with income.

The Fragrance of Victory

As Kushboo recalls her days at the railway station, selling homemade lentil pakodas, she says, "The day started at 8am. My grandmother woke me up. From morning till noon I prepared the batter for the pakodas. For the batter, you have to grind the lentils first. Then add all the spices. Once that process was complete, I took it to our make-shift shop on the road near the railway station. My job was to fry the pakodas in oil and my grandmother sold them."

For Kushboo, the frying wok became her curriculum and the railway station her school. Burning her tiny fingers while frying the pakodas, she painfully sighed watching other children go to school.

"When I was working,I used to see children go to school. I felt sad. What to do, I had to bear it. I wish I could study,” she says.“But when I looked at my condition, I had to give up my dreams of studying. If I would have had my father also working then I could have studied."

Kushboo had convinced herself to accept the fate of her life, in which the collateral damage was giving up her dream to study. Crippled by her circumstances, she was forced to face the uncouthness of street life.

With a look of sadness piercing through in her eyes, she says, "I didn’t like working in the streets. Passersby passed cheap comments. I did not feel safe."

Public sexual harassment is pertinent problem faced by thousands of girls and women in India. Feeling dejected and vulnerable, Kushboo crept into a shell that altered her personality; that of being distant.

Buried under the colossal influx of people at the station and unnoticed for years, Kushboo’s pain couldn’t be hidden any longer, as World Vision volunteers identified her as a high risk child.

Prepared to face the challenges of redirecting a 13-year-old girl’s life, the volunteers approached Kushboo with the one tool that could gain her trust – the tool of empathy and love. At first she looked at them with suspicion. ‘Why would someone be concerned about me?’ she thought to herself.

"It took repeated visits to her snack stall, enquiring about and understanding her background, speaking to her family, counseling them, in order to convince Kushboo’s family to send her to the drop-in centre. In most of these cases the first reaction is suspicion because they have never had anyone feel concern for them and their situation. When they saw that we were genuinely concerned and there to help, they started opening up," says Sanjeev, a World Vision volunteer.

The gaining of trust phase was a gradual process. Months went by before a verdict was  pronounced; Kushboo’s heart eagerly awaited for what was yet to come. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, hope finally arose in Kushboo’s heart. Despite poverty governing their lives’ decisions, Kushboo’s grandmother now empowered, broke down the walls of ignorance and pronounced her blessing.

"I am not educated, my daughter is not educated, which is why we are in poverty. All I want is a goodlife for my granddaughter. A life better than what we have," says Kushboo’s grandmother.

Finally, trading the frying wok for a pencil, Kushboo began her journey of enlightenment through education. With no basic foundations, the transition wasn’t smooth.

"We coached her for one whole year. She didn’t know anything. After a year we mainstreamed her into government school. Now after two years of coaching at our centre, there is a lot of difference. She is very strong in math," says Sanjeev, a World Vision volunteer.

Not only did Kushboo turn a new leaf in the world of education but her personality blossomed into a more open, forthcoming adolescent.

"She smiles now, she laughs. The moral value classes have had a positive impact on her. There is a great difference in Kushboo’s personality and mannerisms.

"I want to be a teacher just like Sanjeev sir and teach children like me. My study life started in the centre. I feel safe and secure here rather than on the streets. If World Vision was not here, this chance to study would be impossible.It has changed my behaviour, my way of thinking;I can do anything if I am provided with an opportunity," she says.

Like her name, which means fragrance, she is the sweet aroma of victory over years of bondage to illiteracy.  Finally breaking this generational curse she has become the first person in her family to go to school.


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